This past Sunday evening, I hit “record” on the receiver for the Academy Awards. It was the first time in a very, very long time that I’ve intentionally watched an awards show. The Movie “Dune” was up for several awards, and I was curious enough to watch, hoping it would win. In several categories, it did. But there two moments that stood out for me in the show, and no – neither one of them was Will Smith giving Chris Rock exactly what he deserved.
Granted, the slap and interchange between the two that was all video and no sound for America, has continued to receive the most press, this year’s Academy Awards should not be defined by that rather ugly moment. Make no mistake about it, it was the most talked about moment on Monday, and continues to suck the oxygen out of the room where the Academy Awards is concerned.
The two moments that had me in tears were the moment when Yuh-Jung Youn presented the Supporting Actor award to Troy Ktsur, and Lady Gaga with Liza Minelli presenting the Best Picture Award. Both moments define the ideas of kindness, selflessness, and caring – just beautiful and touching acts of the parts of Yuh-Jong and GaGa.
Yuh-Jung made notations about how she had been slightly annoyed at the previous awards when people mispronounced her name over and over. Yet here she was presenting an award to people whose names she could barely pronounce. She apologized before continuing for any mispronunciations she would incur from her poor English skills. After announcing the nominees, she opened the envelope, and stopped. She then signed Kotsur’s name, and then announced it verbally into the microphone. When Kotsur approached her on the stage to accept his award, she handed it to him, and then signed what I presume to be her congratulations. A little further on, she acknowledged that she had just learned how to sign that statement and Kotsur’s name earlier that day just in case he won the award. In Kotsur’s acceptance speech, which he signed and was translated by a member of his party, he told the heart-breaking story of how an accident had left him paralyzed and unable to sign.
Just when I thought I was past the point of hardcore emotions, Lady Gaga comes out with the incomparable legend Liza Minnelli to present the Picture of the Year award. Liza was in a wheelchair looking visibly frail, and somewhat confused on what she needed to do. I began to think we were about to watch an award show low. Then Lady Gaga gripped Liza’s hand and telling Liza that everyone just adored her. A huge smile came to Liza’s face, and she again tried to start again, laughing at her own missteps. Then Lady Gaga leaned down and quietly said “I got you” and liza responded with an even quieter “I know.” Instead of running over Liza through the segment, Lady Gaga showed deference to Liza, beaming with absolute joy at being able to stand next to the ‘Cabaret” Oscar winner. During the acceptance speech by the “Coda” entourage, Lady Gaga could be seen in the background at the curtain’s edge – still holding Liza’s hand, beaming as if this moment was all she really ever wanted.
Over the past few years, I have preached on and on about how kindness was paramount. In those two moments on Sunday night, I witnessed the epitome of what I have talked about. How spending just a quick amount of time to learn to sign someone’s name and a congratulations message JUST IN CASE the actor in question won his category, that’s an act of selflessness. Yuh-Jung wanted to ensure that the moment would be all Kotsur’s…that he wouldn’t have to wait for translator to state what she had spoken. Instead, she wanted Kotsur to get the message from her first. His moment spoken in his words. Lady Gaga showed patience, understanding, kindness, deference, and love to Liza Minnelli through her actions standing there with her.
On a night that seems Hells-bent to showcase a violent, ugly moment – these moments of beauty are being pushed under the waves, seemingly forgotten. For me, these were two of the greatest moments of the entire show. Moments, I’m not going to forget anytime soon. People always ask me what epitomizes a Pagan or a Druid, and some of my first notations usually fall along these lines. Most Pagans and Druids that I know are concerned with others before themselves. If there is one thing that my Pagan Path has taught me over thirty-five years – care and concern for others is paramount. Particularly when we have the power and capacity to do so. We’ve had plenty of moments over the last three years where people have needed us. Many have stepped into the breach to be there. Several people that I know have had life altering experiences. Some have lost loved ones. I can’t fathom what they are feeling, after all we all have different waves of emotions to life-altering experiences. Many of them are too far away for me to offer anything more than an ear to bend or a virtual hug. That does wear on me, as these are folks that are near and dear to my heart and soul. But I offer what is within my power and capacity to give and provide. It’s the very least I can do.
In world that has spent so much time dealing with a pandemic, a war, over-reaching and over-bearing politics…be a Yuh-Jung Youn. Be a Lady Gaga. Even when faced with your own adversity, your own tragedies. You never know who might be watching, who might gain some strength from your example. We grieve when we need to grieve, how we need to grieve. But we can use the examples of Lady Gaga and Yuh_jung Youn – among so many, many others – to guide our feet and our actions to being more kind, more compassionate, more giving….